Peace Corps Connections

Fifty years after its founding, the image of the Peace Corps is of young Americans doing good things in a remote location without the creature comforts of home. Field volunteers abroad work on two of the corps’ goals: helping people in other countries develop capacity and training, and promoting better understanding of Americans around the world. When they return home, they begin working on the corps’ third goal: promoting better understanding of other people and cultures on the part of Americans. That goal has brought many returned Peace Corps volunteers (RPCVs) into the Sanford School community as students, staff and faculty.

Peace Corps Fellow Heath Cosgrove MIDP'07 did his summer internship with CHF International in Sudan.Left: Peace Corps Fellow Heath Cosgrove MIDP’07 did his summer internship with CHF International in Sudan. Cosgrove is currently a private sector development officer with USAID in Afghanistan.

Three current faculty members volunteered with the Peace Corps. Assistant Professor Marc Jeuland, who joined the faculty this fall, worked on a wastewater treatment system in Mali, West Africa. Kate Whetten, associate professor and director of the Center for Health Policy, and Duncan Yaggy, adjunct professor and chief planning officer of the Duke University Health System, also are RPCVs.

James A. Joseph, professor of the practice, was not a volunteer, but has a long history with the corps in other ways. In the 1960s, Joseph was the leader of Operations Crossroads Africa in Ghana, the program upon which Sargent Shriver modeled the Peace Corps. While in Africa, Joseph came to know Franklin H. Williams, then ambassador to South Africa and one of the creators of the corps.

Joseph was appointed ambassador to South Africa in 1995 during the tenure of President Nelson Mandela and brought the Peace Corps to South Africa for the first time. More recently, Joseph was one of two advisors charged with reviewing the agency-wide assessment of the Peace Corps for submission to Congress.

On Sept. 9, Joseph received the 2010 Franklin H. Williams Director’s Award at the Peace Corps headquarters in Washington, D.C. for his career in voluntary service. Joseph delivered the keynote address at the ceremony.

Three current Sanford staff members are RPCVs: Stephanie Alt Lamm, Doug McClary and Cheryl Bailey. Alt Lamm, assistant director of the Master of International Development Program, served in Costa Rica as a small business development volunteer with women’s groups and artisan cooperatives. Indigenous Chorotega pottery designs were rediscovered by a pottery cooperative she worked with, and shared with a women’s sewing cooperative to use on clothing and bags.

“There was a lot of pride among the members of the cooperatives in being able to present these designs again,” she said.

McClary, financial analyst, was stationed in Uganda from 2001 to 2003. He was a teacher trainer, tutoring primary school teachers to help them pass their college boards and gain certification. In addition, McClary also helped obtain 37,000 textbooks for Ugandan schools and helped set up 34 school libraries.

“I also met my wife, Darci, in Uganda,” McClary said. “She was working on the same project.”

Bailey, DCID program coordinator, graduated with a degree in French and international relations, and three weeks later was on her way to teach math in the Central African Republic. She describes her classroom as “a little House on the Prairie setting, with just a chalkboard and open windows in a tin roof building.” She taught 7th-, 9th- and 11th-grade students, whose only books were their notebooks. “I hope to go back into the Peace Corps when I retire,” she said.

Alt Lamm manages the Peace Corps Fellows program at Sanford, which offers RPCVs reduced tuition while pursuing graduate degrees. She is also a project leader for Duke’s “A World Together” initiative. Eleven current MPP students, four dual-degree students and seven MIDP students are Peace Corps Fellows. The fellows must complete a community service project in an underserved area in Durham.

“Sanford was the first department at Duke to offer the fellowships,” Alt Lamm said.

Peace Corps Fellows Shawn Stokes MIDP’11 and Rossana Zetina-Yglesias MIDP’11 are working with the local grassroots organization El Centro Hispano. Stokes works on grant research and writing and Zetina-Yglesias does fund-raising and marketing and recently joined their board.

Many Sanford alumni are RPCVs, including several who work in the Peace Corps administration. Stacy Rhodes MIDP’91, who volunteered in Bolivia, is now chief of staff to the Peace Corps director. A graduate of the Emerging Leaders Program, Esther Benjamin, is associate director of global operations. Ken Goodson PPS’95 was part of the team that created the Congressional report on the corps. He was a volunteer in Bolivia, then became a country director in Belize, Peru and Mongolia.